As court injunction denied, Anson County swears in Howell as sheriff

ANSON COUNTY, N.C. — The Anson County Sheriff’s Office has some clarity on who will take over as the department’s next leading man.

Two men had been staking a claim as sheriff during a controversial process that has included rushed votes and judicial appeals.

Until Wednesday afternoon, both men were being referred to as “sheriff” by the county.

The dissension arose following the death of Sheriff Landric Reid in September.

Two candidates -- interim sheriff Scott Howell and Democratic nominee Gerald Cannon -- were appointed as sheriff in back-to-back nights after votes from the county board of commissioners.

On Wednesday, a judge denied Cannon’s request for preliminary injunction to make him sheriff. Howell was sworn-in during a private ceremony, county attorney Scott Forbes told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno.

Howell took over in an interim role earlier this year. On Tuesday night, the Anson County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 to make him the sheriff for the next four years. Howell was publicly sworn in as the new sheriff on Friday morning.

But the county attorney said whether Howell was actually the sheriff rested with the courts.

“Two people have been appointed to the same position and it is for the courts to decide what is going forward on this,” Forbes said.

On Monday night, a lame-duck majority of commissioners met in an emergency meeting and voted to appoint Gerald Cannon as sheriff. Cannon was the Anson County Democrats’ pick before the state party overrode the selection citing several rule violations.

Monday’s impromptu session did not include all commissioners and some who attended were only present by phone.

The county attorney wasn’t there and he expects legal action to begin on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, he is referring to both men as sheriff.

“I call them both sheriff out of respect for both men who are very fine men,” Forbes said.

Cannon filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking a preliminary injunction saying that Howell is not allowing him to take office.

However, Cannon’s request was denied, Anson County attorney Scott Forbes said late Wednesday afternoon. Paving the way for Howell to be sworn-in publicly later this week.

The process has drawn scrutiny from the community.

Tuesday’s meeting drew a large crowd with lines out of the door. People began gathering more than an hour and a half early for the 6 p.m. regular meeting.

“Absolutely illegal, immoral and you broke your oath of office,” upset resident Bobby Johnson told the commissioners.

The county Democratic Party Chair defended Cannon’s appointment saying it is needed to preserve democracy.

“Whenever Sheriff Cannon takes his seat, he will serve all people of Anson County with distinction and with honor,” Dannie Montgomery said.

Howell had said he planned to continue serving as sheriff just as he had before in the interim role while the dispute worked itself out.

“I have been the sheriff all the way through this process,” he said. “I was the sheriff when I came in tonight, and I am going to be sheriff.”

The county attorney said a formal swearing in is being planned for Howell Friday morning at the courthouse.

Anson County Democratic Party Chair Dannie Montgomery released this statement: “Gerald Cannon took the Sheriffs’ Oath of Office on Monday evening. The bad actions of the Anson Board of Commissioners on Tuesday were illegal and an injustice.”

(WATCH BELOW: Sheriff McFadden responds to lawsuit over waiting times for concealed handgun permits)

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